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A Little Learning

I Η Π.

Let’s do an experiment. Read the following verses:

As you read, you noticed odd symbols substituted for some of the words. You probably recognized one or two as mathematical operators, and may have assumed the others are, as well. If so, you’re right—they are. If you don’t know what most of them mean, don’t feel bad; I don’t, either. I just scavenged them from the internet. I have no idea how most of them are properly used. I only know that they mean something close enough to the words they represent here, assuming my sources are reliable and I understood them correctly—which is not necessarily a safe assumption.

imageThe purpose of this silly exercise is to illustrate the point that “a little learning is a dangerous thing,” and apply it to the multitudes of internet “scholars.”

Any semi-literate person with an internet connection can acquire an impressive collection of theological terms and a shallow understanding of what they might mean. That person can then go on to present his facile arguments with great confidence, while having no idea what he is talking about. We would all do well to heed this advice:


A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

—Alexander Pope (1688–1744), An Essay on Criticism (1709).

I’ve also never actually read Alexander Pope. I just Googled the well-known aphorism, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” and found the original (it is thought) source. I have no idea who he is or what “the Pierian spring” is—though the contextual meaning is obvious. I might Google that, too, someday when I need to look impressive.

Posted 2017·08·28 by David Kjos
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